The thought lingered in the back of every Coyotes fans mind at the conclusion of last night’s game: “Uh oh, is this the beginning of the end?”
Playing a back-to-back that sent the team to Los Angeles after a heartbreaking defeat last night certainly could not have improved morale. Even worse than that, being blasted once they stepped on the ice didn’t help either.
By a final score of 4-0, the Los Angeles Kings systemically dissected a tired and fading Phoenix Coyotes squad.
It may not have made much of a difference in this one, but the presence of Mike Smith in between the pipes is looming as large as ever. Thomas Greiss has done an admirable job keeping the Coyotes relevant these last few games, but to expect him to be able to perform for a second night in a row against a relentless attacking offense is simply unrealistic.
The writing was on the wall early as Tanner Pearson of all people found the back of the net on a one-timer just 80 seconds into the game to stake the Kings to a lead they would not relinquish all game.
There are a litany of reasons as to why things did go the ‘Yotes way tonight, but the most glaring was certainly their lack of shots on goal. Against an elite goaltender such as Jonathan Quick, only getting 17 shots towards the net is not a formula for winning, especially on the road. Although Lauri Korpikoski had a puck go awry off the crossbar in the second period, the majority of the game was played inside the Coyotes zone.
Also sticking out was the unfortunate timing of penalties. Twice, the Kings scored while on the power play, which is not the norm for a team that is only 26th in the league at putting them away on a man advantage.
It seemed that Keith Yandle’s coast-to-coast drive at the opening of the third period was Phoenix’s way of having one last gasp before they threw the towel in. After Yandle was stoned by Quick, the Kings once again went back to pounding the Coyotes. It was certainly a group effort from Los Angeles on this night, as the team totaled 40 hits, but had nine separate players record at least three hits.
Jeff Carter’s team-leading 27th goal midway through the third period on a 2-on-1 run out, all but iced the game for the Kings. If the level of effort was not already in question, even Coach Tippett seemed to realize it was time to pull the plug. Just forty seconds later, Anze Kopitar blew one past Greiss for the fourth and final goal of the contest, mercifully putting the Coyotes out of their misery.
While no one can blame the Coyotes for coming out so exhausted, it certainly is disappointing to see the team begin to fade down the stretch. The loss of Mike Smith is monumental in so many aspects that statistics cannot convey, but with only five games left, the time for excuses is up.
The next time the ‘Yotes take the ice will be Friday night back home in Glendale against Edmonton. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 P.M. and will be taking place simultaneously with Phoenix Suns basketball, who will also be playing a vital game on Friday. At this point, the Coyotes cannot really control their own fate, but they can decide how tough they want to make it on Dallas to lock down that final playoff spot.
Edmonton has been absolutely dreadful this season, so two points is an absolute must; anything less is a severe disappointment. This will be the last game before San Jose and Dallas stop in next weekend for the final two, so be sure to make your way down to Jobing.com Arena and root on the Coyotes as they make their final ascension towards the NHL Playoffs.